Titus Boye-Thompson, Communications Consultant
In a post conflict, fledgling democracy like Sierra Leone, the pressures of social decay and economic imbalance overplay themselves like a pincer movement in maintaining law and order to the extent that the Police, the statutory institution mandated to uphold the peace and tranquillity of the high authority of the Presidency comes under immense pressure from bad press and discordant reporting. The woes of society are outplayed by a direct confrontation between the enforcers of public order while the judiciary remains aloof of the need to redefine justice in simple terms. Access to justice becomes a pivotal requirement for sustaining the functions of law and order but the public antagonism fall indiscriminately against the front line force for good. The blame for breakdown in law and order, criminality on our streets and release of known miscreants who immediately come out to re-offend is always heaped on the Police and not the Courts, for example.
Conflict has been known to exist where a difference of attitudes or methodologies are present. The absence of agreement is a definition of terms in relation to conflict in society but this phrase is more a rationality of the consequence of disparate aspirations. We all do not seek the same outcomes or aspire to the same ideals and it is that discord that causes conflict. Sierra Leone as a society has had to deal with the consequences of conflict in a more brutal engagement, a horrid civil war and an atrocious combination of savagery and brutality. Given this historic background, the creation of a new Police force has to be converged with a directional change dynamics wherein the old orders of antagonism and disenchantment between the Police and the community are gradually erased. For this reason, the Sierra Leone Police has over time evolved within a management of specialist officers, trained in some of the highest institutions of learning around the World and trained in disciplines raging from conflict resolution to modern methods of policing. We see the emergence of community policing and the establishment of Local Police Partnership Boards (LPPBs) as new interventions in structuring policing to fit the local conditions and environments.
In preparing the Force to meet the demands of the future, the current Inspector General of Police, Francis Alieu Munu has led from the front in pushing through the boundaries of Policing, focusing on a more professional and responsive Police Force. Backed by the Police hierarchy and the Executive Management Board, the IGP has adopted several policies for institutional strengthening. There are now written documents representing rights and obligations of members of the Force, ranging from employment rights, gender equality, housing and promotions.
A recruitment policy now sets out the procedures and entry level qualifications for new intake into the Police thus eradicating the previous practice of recommendations from persons with political influence irrespective of whether the candidate for employment is suitable Police material or not. The Inspector General of Police has taken great care to structure the institution to sustain itself through sound policies on promotions, discipline and performance. In such an environment, the need for education and training becomes a paramount concern. Apart from the facilities offered at the Police Training School and also at various Regional centres, an ultra modern Police and Law Enforcement Academy is under construction along the Makeni / Magburuka Highway at Makump. When completed, this is expected to be a centre of excellence for Police and law enforcement education, the technical and academic development of Police personnel and a throughput of a more trained and better disciplined force. There are other more practical ways that the Police is engaged in terms of rebuilding its image, one of which is in the establishment of a robust complaints and disciplinary process through the CDIID, an internal police complaints and disciplinary investigations Unit based at Police Headquarters.
Having put all of this in place, the image of the Sierra Leone Police, while being strengthened internally through the foundations being laid for a better educated and more professional Force, decries the public perception of a corrupt institution and has to come under some scrutiny and objective reasoning. The strengths of the Police Force as it now stands, require massive investment not only in manpower development but also equipment and logistics. The Sierra Leone Police is now a well-recognized professional force, highly sought after for Peace Keeping operations across the World at UN, AU and ECOWAS Commands. The SLP is now expected to supply contingents of upwards of 140 personnel as a stand-alone, self-contained Formed Police Unit (FPU) for AU and UN assignments. This demand on the Force translates to the requirement for an augmented level of personnel and a better educated deployment so as to maintain the SLPs record as one of the best Police command Units deployed on peace keeping missions. The focus on education is therefore a firm basis for building a well maintained and professional police force capable of handling international assignments while responding at the same time to local policing needs and challenges.